Eight hundred million peasants in China have never been allowed to own their land. Under new reforms by the Chinese government, farmers can trade, subcontract or lease their land — options they have never had before.
In a rather dramatic policy shift, the government has assigned small plots to farmers in communist China. Proponents say this unprecedented plan will lead to “larger, more efficient farms that could increase output” at a time when China isn’t growing enough food to feed its own people, according to the New York Times.
Along with coping with the global economic crisis, China is trying to appease decades of rural discontent felt by farmers who have protested against their lack of land rights and the burgeoning corruption of collective ownership. Too often, “local officials and developers have illegally seized farmland for urban expansion while paying minimal compensation to farmers.”
However, opponents of this new land reform worry that millions of landless farmers will leave the countryside for better-paying work in cities. If these farmers are unable to find work, they won’t have any land left in the countryside to go back to.
Thirty years ago, economic reforms launched China’s rise. But while cities grew wealthy, the countryside remained poor. Let’s see if these reforms give Chinese farmers the same opportunities for financial gain as their urban counterparts have enjoyed.